James Harden was supposed to have a successful time in Philadelphia together with Joel Embiid. But nothing came of it, as the tablecloth between player and club was cut. How it came to this…
James Harden, nicknamed “The Beard”, started his NBA career in Oklahoma. After three years, he moved on to Houston and became the absolute superstar of the league, culminating in being voted MVP in 2018. Despite individual fabulous numbers and the one or other best mark, it was never enough with the Rockets to hit the big time.
And so Harden, who no longer showed up for training in Houston and thus struck out, forced his move to the Brooklyn Nets at the beginning of 2021. There he wanted to get his first ring together with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. But this combination did not work out, so the 34-year-old went on to Philadelphia in February 2022. General manager Daryl Morey, with whom the shooting guard had already worked successfully in Houston, was desperate to have his protégé. Morey wanted to build a team around Harden and Joel Embiid that would win the NBA title.
But nothing came of it; both in 2022 and last summer, the team was eliminated in the conference semifinals. And with this duo it will not go on in Philly, because the table cloth between Harden and the club, more precisely Morey, is completely cut. But how did it come to this?
It all started in the summer of 2022, when the Beard had extended for two years in Philadelphia, but gave up 14 million euros that the team can get better. This was something new for Harden, who had always signed or been offered maximum contracts with his class. He was therefore no longer a “Max Guy” in the league, which did not necessarily help the reputation of the top player.
Harden also saw that his standing was no longer the same as in his time in Houston. An example? The 34-year-old was voted an All-Star ten times in a row, but not again last season. The Beard’s numbers were good, but the team’s success did not match. In the summer, after a disappointing game seven against Boston, the team was once again eliminated in the conference semifinals.
Rivers must go – way clear for Harden?
Following the heavy defeats in just Game Seven and also Game Six before that, where Philly each had a spot in the next round in their own hands, it seemed clear that Harden would no longer be playing under Doc Rivers. “The only way James Harden was coming back was if Doc Rivers wasn’t going to be a coach anymore,” ESPN insider Ramona Shelburne said on the ESPN podcast. The club also eventually responded to the failure by parting ways with the head coach. So the way was clear for Harden to stay in Philadelphia.
But things turned out differently. At the end of June, Harden had pulled a contract option that tied him to the Sixers for another season until 2024 for an annual salary of 35.6 million dollars. However, this was done under the premise of being traded by Philadelphia afterwards – the reason for this trade wish was apparently the failed negotiations for a maximum contract, which Harden wanted. Morey did not offer him one. It was ice time, talks did not take place.
Harden’s transfer also fell through, as there is probably no current market for him. The Clippers were the Beard’s favourite, but a trade didn’t materialise, adding to the three-way specialist’s discontent.
Harden calls Morey a “liar “
In mid-August, the tarnished relationship between Harden and Morey finally broke down. The player publicly attacked the official. “Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be part of an organisation he belongs to,” Harden said during a promotional tour in China. Not much has happened since.
So, of course, Media Day in Philadelphia on Monday is eagerly awaited. Training camp starts one day later. It would be very unlikely that Harden will show up there. It all points to the superstar’s next strike …